29 JUNE 1889, Page 9


TF the Socialists' premisses were true, it would be difficult, indeed, to withstand the conclusion that only by a complete reorganisation of society could the condition of mankind. be improved. If the drift of the world under the present industrial system, based. as it is on in- dividualistic action, is, in truth, more and more towards de- pressing the worker at the expense of the capitalist, and towards placing the labourer in a condition of virtual slavery, then, indeed, the Socialist has a clear right to try and arrest the downward process, for in doing so he is attempting to benefit the whole human race. According to the followers of Mr. Hynd.man, the rich grow daily richer, and the poor poorer and more miserable. A society organised on free contract is, they contend, one which, the more fully it is developed, the more becomes a system for bestowing the rewards and profits of labour on the idle instead of on the industrious. The " hands " of the capitalist are, they declare, far worse off than the slaves on a plantation ; for whereas the latter had a right to expect the necessaries of life from their masters, the former may at any moment be cast off to starve. The world is, for all practical purposes, we are told, divided by a rigid distinction between rich and poor. The rich enjoy the varied products of the new material progress ; while the majority of the poor are shut up all day in gaunt and comfortless workshops, without the slighest pros- pect of change or improvement. Day after day the clanging factory bell, or the pitiless and resonant moan of the hooter, calls thousands upon thousands of men and women from their- sleep to enter the doors of cheer- less, dust-begrimed, often evil-smelling, and always evil-looking mills, where, herded together through the long hours, they labour at the same dull, thankless, and monotonous toil. For the ordinary "hand," there is no more hope of escape from this bondage than for the omnibus horse. Till death releases him, he must, even if he live till seventy, do his ten or twelve hours of work a day. It is true he need not fear the actual lash of a whip, but only because organised society has substituted a much more efficient punishment in the shape of the fear of starvation, which the capitalist keeps always suspended before the labourer's eyes.

Such is the Socialist's manner of painting the results of modern society. No doubt in certain ways the picture is as true as it is terrible. That the life of the factory labourer may be a very miserable one, we have no desire to deny. What we do wish to point out, however, and with all the emphasis possible, is that it is utterly false and mis- leading to say that the tendency of society, organised on the individualistic basis, is to stereotype the existing miseries and to further degrade the worker. Such a statement is the exact opposite of the truth. The tendency—the neces- sary and unavoidable tendency of society arranged in accordance with the principles- of free contract, free exchange, and free individual action—is unquestionably towards the improvement of the position of the labourer. If the worker is let alone and allowed to sell his work to the highest bidder, he must ultimately win in the industrial battle. In fact, the observance of the doctrines of the so- called Manchester school, which, though nominally scouted, are in a great measure triumphant, will, if further allowed free scope, do at last for the world what the Socialists in their hearts desire ; but will do it without attempting to subject man to regulations which, since they run counter to every instinct in his nature, can never possibly succeed. For those who can read them, there are already abundant signs that the silent working of economic laws is pro- ducing a condition of affairs under which, if capital will not be actually at the mercy of labour, it will at any rate cease to claim the larger share of the world's good things. Before long the progress of modern civilisation will not only have enormously enhanced the reward of all labour, but will have done away with the industrial slavery now existing in factory, mill, and workshop. The first of the signs to which we have alluded is the lowering of the interest paid for the use of capital. How marked is this tendency is well illustrated by the fact that an American Municipal Corporation—that of the City of New York— has actually been able to borrow money at less than 21 per cent.,—its Stock at that rate was subscribed for at above 101. To realise the full significance of this fact, we must contrast with it the rise in the value of human labour. When money commanded on an average 5 per cent. interest, as it did, say thirty years ago, two thousand pounds invested would purchase the annual labour of two skilled labourers. Now, however, that the rate of interest is reduced by one-half, and that wages have risen 25 per cent., the return from such a sum would not obtain the yearly service of one. No doubt the existing capitalists appear to be better off, because one of the results of the fall in the rate of interest has been to make the capitalists compete fiercely among themselves for those perpetual rights to receive so many pounds per annum from States or Companies which we term " stock." This circumstance, however, cannot alter the fact that while the remuneration of that form of wealth which we call " capital" has-declined, the remuneration of that form which we call " labour" has increased, and that immense advantage has thereby accrued to the poor,--i.e., to the classes who depend solely on the work of their hands or brains, and who gain employment in the countless commercial enter- prises set going when money can be borrowed cheaply. The only use of newly created capital is to employ labour in some form or other. It rusts for want of use. There- fore, the more capital that is' created, the heavier the com- petition for the labourer's work and the higher his wages. Still more definite hope for the poor is to be found in the fact that the latest discoveries of science seem destined to free them from the curse of being herded together in factories and mills, and to restore to them the power they once enjoyed of working at home, and under conditions infinitely more conducive to moral and physical health than exist at present. We shall not, of course, ever return to hand-labour instead of machinery; but it appears extremely likely that the artisan of the future will toil in his own little workshop, and that, instead of the employment of large engines in vast buildings, we shall have the same work done by a number of small machines, capable of being set up and " run " in private houses. A German, Dr. Albrecht, has recently been investigating this subject, and his researches show that the manufacture and employment of small machines of various sorts for home use is im- mensely on the increase. Up till now the difficulty has been the obtaining of a cheap and efficient motive-force. With- out this the small home workshop could not hope to com- pete with the mill. Of recent years, however, this has been in a great measure got over by the use of water- motors, hot-air engines, gas-motors, and small steam- engines, all of which are, of course, perfectly suitable for the work required. Dr. Albrecht calculates that the least expensive of these motors—i.e., those run by gas and steam,—of from one to four horse-power can successfully compete with the large factory engines. In regard to their use, the Report of a German Inspector of Factories says : —" There is a constant increase in the number of small shops which are seeking, by the introduction of such motors, to appropriate as much as possible-the advantages of the large establishments." Dr. Albrecht, however, is by no means content to show that the home industries will' hold their own. He looks forward to science proSing a motor for house-to-house use which will give the individual worker a decided advantage, and will, by practically putting an end to the factory system, restore the old individualistic industries. Electricity, as our readers may imagine, is to solve the problem, and redeem the toilers from the bondage of the factory. If once central stations are established, and wires laid to each man's house, there will, thinks Dr. Albrecht, be no difficulty in the use of small electric-motors, which, he believes, will prove the cheapest and best of all. The prospect is certainly a fascinating one. By night the electric-currents running down every street will light the houses, and in the daytime the force necessary for all kinds of manufactures will be supplied to those who need it. No more will it be necessary to shut men and women up all day, and every day, in huge barracks filled with the hideous roar of engines of three or four hundred horse- power, or to summon them from their homes by the hooter and the steam-whistle. The artisan will be able to have a home-life as well as the artist, and, thanks to electricity, will once again be a free man. In the words of Werner Siemens, the great electrical inventor, quoted in the Nation, —"the goal of the revolution of science will not be a mass of great factories in the hands of rich capitalists, in which the slaves of labour' drag out their monotonous existence, but the return to individual labour."

When the prospect of a real bettering of the condition of the workers is such as we have endeavoured to point out, would it not be madness to throw all chance of' im- provement away at the bidding of the Socialists, in the hope that the State organisation of labour—that is, the enslave- ment of the individual to the aggregate—might somehow or other alleviate evils due in reality not to the system of freedom and competition, but to wars and to that practical Socialism which we know by the name of "the protection of industries " ? The workers are asked to abandon a substance, and pursue a shadow. If they assent, their action can have but one result. They will find themselves able to destroy, but utterly unable to re-create, a social system which, with all its faults, tends directly to improve the condition of all those who labour.